QUESTION: Dear Madeline, I have read you biography and I promise to read and rate your response within three days. I understand that your time is valuable, that you are most likely spending at least 45 minutes of your time in response to my question, and I understand too that when questioners read and rate your responses fairly that you make random donations to animal shelters to help homeless animals. In the interest of being appreciative of your time AND helping shelter dogs and cats, I agree that I will rate your response and give you fair feedback.
I have a male dog who was housetrained prior to fostering rescue dogs. I have been fostering for about a year and a half. I adopted this dog at about age 3 and he had marking issues then. However, we were able to overcome that (caught him in the act & redirected) and were fine for the three or so years until we started fostering. As you know, fosters come from all sorts of backgrounds and many are not house trained and/or mark. We try to clean and use the cleaning sprays that are supposed to work but I know the dogs can still smell it. At this point, everyone who is not confirmed excellent with their potty manners wears a belly band or britches. We recently had a foster that despite records from the shelter, turned out was not spayed. She went into heat and my little guy went nutso over her, increasing his marking. She has since moved on so there are no dogs in the house in heat. Just to clarify, my two personal dogs are neutered. The one in question was neutered about age 3. As some additional background, my little boy used to have no accidents while we were gone at work all day. Then he would have an accident on occasion, then it became more regular. Currently, when we come home from work, he has soaked a large pad with urine. He is very close with his furbrother and when we have crated him separately he cries and carries on for long periods of time. He even cried when he was crated but in the same room as his furbrother. They are contained in a room together when we go to work. I do wonder if he may do most of his urination when we get home as he is very excited (barks, jumps around). So my main question, is with an ongoing rotation of fosterdogs who will have accidents, what are some good strategies to use with my personal dog who I know is very capable of demonstrating good manners but now does not? Thanks for all your help!
ANSWER: Hello, Christine,
Thank you for your question and for choosing me to respond to it. Thanks, too, for taking the time to carefully read my bio.
Certainly, and as you've noted, a female in heat can cause dogs to regress regarding their potty habits, even neutered males, and bitches can be affected as well even if they are spayed.
Although your male is neutered, I'm wondering if he wasn't neutered until after you adopted him, or just before, some time around the age of three years. If so, his brain had plenty of time to become testosteronized and he can still respond to females in heat behaviorally. Just so you know, he may be able to respond physically as well, but he won't be able to impregnate a bitch.
From what you've written, I'm garnering that another issue has developed, or worsened. It sounds to me as if he has separation anxiety issues which may have affected his housetraining habits, possibly in conjunction with other reasons which I'll mention bekiw. I can't be sure as I'm not clear about whether the crying when crated is a new behavior, or an old one, even when crated in the same room as his furbrother. As well, I can't tell whether crating him with his furbrother is new, or whether that has been standard issue for him for a long time. Could you clarify in a follow-up?
If there is an additional issue of separation anxiety affecting his housetraining habits you'll need to have a professional trainer with behavioral experience work with you to identify whether he's having separation issues, to what degree, and the reasons why if the behavior is new. One reason could be that, with an ongoing rotation of foster dogs, he feels as if the nest is emptier when they become adopted. The evidence for this is the fact that even when he's with his furbrother, he cries while crated (UNLESS the crating is new for him, which could be the cause of the crying if he's not used to being crated while rooming with his furbrother). If your work schedule is new, and you're out of the home more than in the past, this too could be affecting his behavior and causing separation issues. See if you can follow my train of thought to other things which might have caused or worsened separation issues for him.
With an ongoing rotation of dogs, if that's the reason his housetraining has lapsed, it may be difficult to prevent relapses if they're not due to separation anxiety or a medical issue (and, I would get him a thorough medical check just to make sure that nothing else is going on, such as a thyroid issue or another issue, even a urinary tract infection which I've seen dogs develop after spending days aroused by a nearby bitch in heat). If he's on medication, which you don't mention, the medication could also be affecting his potty habits, depending on what the medication may be. With many sensitive dogs, any changes which cause a stress overload (distress) can affect their behavior.
With the fosters, it may be a good idea to go back to Kindergarten in terms of potty training with your three year old. You may have to do so every time you have a foster in your home, adhering to a regular feeding-drinking-walking schedule with frequent walks and opportunities to eliminate throughout the day, esoecially after napping, playing, eating or drinking. Your fosters will benefit, too. Even if they're already housetrained, a review won't hurt them, and some dogs don't generalize their housetraining from environment to environment, so it's a good idea in any case. If you work, you may have to hire a walker or ask a friend to walk him during the day.
Another thing you can do is restrict the amount of water he's getting. Depending on his weight, ask you veterinarian how much water he should be getting considering his activity level and the temperature and humidity inside your home. Some dogs will drink a full bowl of water if that's what's left for them, out of boredom even if they're not thristy. So, also do some research on safe dog toys which will keep him occupied while you're gone. A good place to look for safe toys is www.petproductadvisor.com
Another thing which you've already noted is any remaining odor from previous accidents, either by him or by fostered dogs. If you can't eliminate the odors entirely, you're bound to have regressions of housetraining with him. With carpeting, that means replacing any padding underneath, since even enzymatic cleaning agents won't get the smell out of carpet padding. If you have rugs, you may need to send them out for cleaning and deodorizing. Tile and wood should be fine if cleaned well with enzymatic cleansers, unless your wooden floors aren't sealed well and have become porous, in which case you may even want to replace those parts of the flooring and then make sure they're well-laminated. With tile, sometimes grout retains odors while the tile doesn't, so you may have to scratch out old grout, regrout, and then seal. I know this sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but in the long run it could save your home.
This next may seem obvious, but it's worth mentioning: make sure he doesn't have access to a toilet out of which he may be drinking. Even if you're closing the lid, dogs learn to flip the lid up, take a drink, and the lid falls back down after they're done so the owner thinks the dog can't possibly be drinking from the toilet. If that may be the case, get child guards for your toilet covers, or close doors which allow him access to toilets.
Catching him in the act again and redirecting him may also go a long way in correcting his recent regression.
Since this all seemed to start with a bitch in heat, you might try getting DAP (dog appeasement pheremone) to see if it has a calming effect on his behavior and helps re-regulate his potty habits. DAP emits the scent of the pheremone that bitches who recently gave birth and are lactating emit, and the scent calms many dogs, although it doesn't work for every dog so you'll have to be aware of whether or not you see changes which may be the result of the DAP. You can obtain a DAP plug-in or a collar.
I just want to reiterate that it seems to me there may be two issues going on with your three year old, and that if one of them is separation anxiety which has occurred anew or worsened, that will need to be addressed as a separate (pun not intended) issue from a regression in housetraining.
If you feel I've missed anything because I needed clarification on a few items, feel free to follow-up with me.
I hope I've been able to help.
Madeline Friedman, M.A. at Allexperts.com
Serving NJ, NYC/Manhattan/Staten Island, south central Florida
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thank you for your information thus far. I know I had a lot in there so let me clarify the timeline a tad. Oscar was adopted at roughly age 3 y.o. He was neutered just prior to that at the shelter. So yes, he definitely developed many of those lovely mature male behaviors such as marking. He did also engage in sexual relations with the dog in heat. Once we caught them doing that, they had separate potty breaks from there on out.
So he had stopped his marking behavior at age 3 y.o. when we wrorked on that behavior. When he was about 5 y.o. or so we started fostering other dogs. It was at some point after we started fostering that he started marking again. It progressed slowly in frequency. It picked up with a lot of intensity around November 2012 when we fostered two malteses with significant potty training issues. To add some complicating factors in there which may or may not be related, his fursister had cancer and we had to put her down August 14 2012. She had been the dominant dog of the house. My three dogs all got along really well and were close but the remaining two did not really seem to be impacted by her death, seemed sort of odd to me.
I read some other sites that talked about marking and insecure dogs. He is rather a low man on totem pole. Some dogs are more the puppies playing a tad rough. A few dogs have been more aggressive in their dominance. He has never sustained an injury though from another dog.
Regarding crating history. When we first got him he was crated when we were at work. He did well and we felt comfortable progressing to all 3 of our three dogs being contained to the kitchen while at work. Everyone did great. Around mid September 2012, my other dog had a scab on his face. My two boys like to groom eachother a lot. Oscar kept licking my other boy's face and it was not healing. So we put them in separate contained areas when we went to work. He would bark and carry on, frantic movement, urination, etc as he wanted to be with his furbrother. So then we tried putting Oscar in the crate inside the contained kitchen area where his furbrother was. Still no better. Eventually we go through it enough and he calmed a bit with the routine and we got to the point the other dog's face healed. At that point they were again in the same room together (no crate needed). Oscar never has any problem when we leave for work (except when he had to be crated for that recent stint). He is quiet, lays down, calm, etc. However, when we come home, that is when he is super crazy barking, running around, etc. That was when I wondered he may urinate more then because he's running around so much with a full bladder.
Regarding empty nest with foster dog rotation, there is never a time there has not been at least two fosterdogs. We generally have 2-3 at a time but in a pinch have taken 4. As you know, there are many dogs to rescue so there is always another one quickly to fill their space.
The UTI is an interesting point since he did actually engage in intercourse and there was a lot of humping while they had their britches & belly band on. However, he seems to urinate with no pain and there is no unusal color/odor. We'll check it out. He is on no meds currently (healthy).
we have begun restricting water so hopefully that helps some. He has no access to toilets unless we are in there and he has never drank from one in front of us (he's also too little to reach- :), bichon mix). We are also in the middle of remodeling and have tore up all the carpet/pad and we are putting in laminate. So that will help immensely with old issues. I also found some other recipe suggestions online and will get a blacklight to look for any unnoticed spots.
We are going back to the drawing board with crating while we're gone and we'll see how that goes. Any other feedback you can provide based on my additional info is appreciated. Thanks!
Hello again, Christine,
Thanks for the additional information in the follow-up.
I'm listing and giving thought to the things you've mentioned - a dog dying from cancer; two Maltese in the home recently who were not housetrained leaving urine scents around your home; remodeling with its noise, contractors, changes; separation from his furbrother while the latter was healing; a bitch in heat with whom he coupled and then was separated; a constant rotation of different foster dogs with a dog you say is "low on the totem pole" in the first place; and, I'm thinking that a tremendous amount of stress is being heaped upon Oscar to the point of distress, perhaps more than he can cope with.
Along with checking on the possibility of a UTI, you might want to calm things down for a while for Oscar and see if that helps, along with the other suggestions I made. At about six years of age, dogs are considered to be heading into senior territory, and their coping skills may not be what they were. As with people, dogs go through behavioral and emotional changes as they age.
I don't believe that the urination is submissive urination. With submissive urination, dogs urinate droplets, not pools of urine. Same with marking - most dogs will leave a small amount of urine when they mark, not pools of urine. Dogs expend the least amount of energy they can in order to convey their message, so pools of urine don't make sense in terms of marking or submissive urination. Something else is going on with Oscar.
I foster dogs, too; but, at any time, I consider my own dogs' emotional and behavioral health as I foster. I've actually cut down a bit as one of my dogs is now 10, and although he's very fit, I noticed behavioral changes in him which were subtle with the last two fosters (all of whom he got along with) that led me to feel he wasn't handling the changes as well as he used to. Some of those were skittishness during and for about a week after a foster; change in eating habits; and, what seemed like a general insecurity when approached by people, all of which disappeared about a week after each foster left. His housetraining was not affected, but all dogs respond differently to (dis)stress.
If it turns out he has a UTI, I would be interested in hearing, and others could benefit from your posting that as well. If you reduce stressors and Oscar seems to get better, you'll have some answers - and, again, if you have the time I'd like to hear how it goes.
Thanks again for the follow-up. It definitely provided some information I didn't have earlier from which I could provide more information, which I hope is helpful.
Madeline Friedman, M.A.
NY Dog Trainer, NJ Dog Trainer, Florida dog trainer
Volunteer at Allexpers.com since 2006